- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2001

Two Cubans suspected of trying to infiltrate U.S. military installations and Cuban exile groups were arrested yesterday by the FBI as members of what authorities said was the largest Cuban spy ring ever detected.
Taken into custody by FBI agents in Orlando, Fla., George Gari and his wife, Marisol, were charged as members of "La Red Avispa," or the Wasp Network, five members of whom were convicted in June of conspiring to spy on the United States for Fidel Castro's regime.
Mr. Gari, 40, and Mrs. Gari, 42, were named in a three-count indictment on charges of conspiracy to act as agents of a foreign government without proper identification or notice to the attorney general. Facing 15 years in prison if convicted, they are being held without bail. No court date has been set.
FBI Agent Hector M. Pesquera, who heads the bureau's Miami field office, announced the arrests. In July, in the wake of the convictions of the five Cuban spies, Mr. Pesquera pledged that additional arrests would be made in what he described as a continuing inquiry. He told reporters at the time that his office had "not finished the investigation."
Federal authorities said that the espionage by the Garis occurred between 1991 and 1998, and that Mrs. Gari used her U.S. Postal Service job to gain access to mail sent by and intended for Cuban Americans.
The couple also are suspected of conducting surveillance on the Cuban American National Foundation, an influential exile group, and of unsuccessfully trying to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Mr. Gari, who worked for Lockheed Martin in Orlando, had been ordered by his Cuban handlers to apply for work at the Southern Command, according to authorities, although they did not elaborate.
Known by the code names "Luis" and "Margot," authorities said, the Garis received training by the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence before their 1990 arrival in the United States and, together, used advanced encryption technology to transmit information about anti-Castro exile organizations between the Cuban government and other agents.
The couple also were accused of surveying the interior layout and security measures at Cuban American National Foundation's Miami headquarters.
The five Cuban spies — Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert, Ramon Labanino Salazar, Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez and Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo — are awaiting sentencing. They were found guilty of monitoring U.S. military installations, including the U.S. Southern Command and a Key West air base, and of infiltrating Cuban-American exile groups.
Convicted on June 8 by a Miami jury that included no Cuban-Americans, three of the five face life in prison. A sentencing date is scheduled for later this month. Prosecutors said during trial that the five had conspired to pass U.S. defense-related information to the Castro regime.
Federal authorities said Hernandez, Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez were high-level intelligence officers who reported directly to Havana command and control centers.
Five other spy suspects — also members of La Red Avispa — had earlier pleaded guilty. Four other members of the organization fled to their homeland and were not charged. Authorities believe the organization has since been dismantled.
Prosecutors said La Red Avispa took part in a wide range of activities, including locating vulnerable points of entry into Florida for the importation of arms and explosives.
Following the arrest in September 1998 of the five who later were convicted, FBI agents collected more than 10,000 pages of information concerning its activities. Agents discovered that, among other projects, the organization counted planes outside a military base, attempted to send a letter bomb to an anti-Castro activist, and infiltrated the Boca Chica base of the Southern Command to observe military activity there.
La Red Avispa's reputed spymaster was Hernandez, who also was found guilty of contributing to the death of the four Brothers to the Rescue members who were shot down by a Cuban MiG fighter jet in international airspace in February 1996.
Prosecutors said he warned two of his colleagues who had infiltrated the Brothers' organization not to fly with the group during the period when the shooting down occurred.
Hernandez has been described as a captain in Cuba's military intelligence.
Relatives of the four Brothers to the Rescue fliers who died during the 1996 shooting down, along with the organization's leader, Jose Basulto, who survived the incident, have asked the government to pursue indictments of Mr. Castro and at least eight others suspected of having taken part in the shooting incident.
Federal authorities have not said whether any such decision is being considered.


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